Bürgerkulturzentrum Windeck / VIDEO

Laura Dekker at Bürgerkulturzentrum Windeck on October 6, 2013. 
Transcript of the video by Thomas Weber.

- At the ‘Kabelmetal’ hall in Windeck-Schladern (Germany) -


Jürgen Orthaus (Moderator): „[Tonight we have a] very extraordinary young woman with us: Laura Dekker, the first [must be: youngest] singlehanded circumnavigator ever. Welcome!”

[Applause from the audience. Laura Dekker and Mr. Orthaus take place on the sofa on the stage]

J.O.: “She seriously deserved that applause. I keep asking myself – Why does Laura Dekker chooses to make a public presentation after having done a presentation of her [German version of her] book in Hamburg… [why does she chooses to make] her only public presentation in Europe, here in Windeck?!”

Laura Dekker: “Well, that’s because Thomas Weber lives here and he followed me during my trip, and he came up with the idea for me to give a presentation here, too. That’s how it came to be.”

J.O.: “How did he follow you?”

L.D.: “Via the internet and my website.”

J.O.: “Some time ago it was said that a circumnavigation is not that difficult: Sail southbound until the butter starts melting and then simply turn left. But that’s not how it is, is it?”

L.D.: “You can try doing it like that too…”

[Laughing from the audience]

L.D.: “… however, that’s not how I did it.”

J.O.: “So now we listen to Laura Dekker and how she did it. OK?”

L.D.: “Yes!”

J.O.: “Your microphone is over there.”

L.D.: “Ah, OK.”

[Laura walks over to the speaker's desk]

L.D.: “[takes the microphone] Everything works. Good. Welcome everyone. As he said, I’m the youngest circumnavigator and I’d like to tell you a bit about that. I’ll start with a short video, so yeah, let’s have a look.” 

[Applause from the audience]

L.D.: “OK. Welcome again everyone. Well, it takes some time to load. Good, then I’ll start; my computer again does not do what I want. I’m better at sailing than with those things here. Ah, OK… here… we… start. Yes. Good. Here we are. Oh… how do I enlarge it [the picture]? [Audience: “Perform a double click!”] Pardon? Double click? Is that good? Yes, that’s good, huh? OK. Good. I start with… well, the very beginning of my story and that starts with my parents. These are my father and mother, and they aren’t quite normal either…

At ten years ‘old I was already sailing alone. Well, not completely alone… in company of the dog… Spot… he’s asleep… he is here, too! Spotje! Awake!!! Come! Come here! [Laura steps forward from the speaker’s desk, Spot comes by her side] Well, I did not sail completely alone. That’s my dog [Laura pets Spot; applause from the audience]. And he always came sailing with me when I was younger. [He sailed with me] In the Optimist and in the bigger dinghies, during competitions he also sailed with me and, yeah, here [in the picture] you also see the dog aboard the Hurley 700… I fear he doesn’t like so many people… he’s a bit shy… well, he isn’t quite a good sailor either, however, he gladly [accompanied me; sentence incomplete].

… and then I… I can’t remember, sometime in August 2010 I sailed off from Holland, with my father since, well, in Europe they still did not want me to sail alone with that ship [Guppy]. And with my father we sailed to Gibraltar because… they don’t have so many rules over there and they allowed me to sail off.

Of course, I sometimes was afraid but… not afraid enough to go back [home]. And going forward with small steps… you can circumnavigate the world this way too. I was thinking I could either sail a hundred times to England and back, or I could do the same in a row, and then have circumnavigated the world. That’s what I thought – not the WHOLE world at one go but little by little.

From the San Blas Islands I went to the Panama Canal. And… I chose that route because ‘Guppy’ isn’t really equipped to go around the Cape, the Cape Hoorn, but also because I wanted to see the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, and so it wouldn’t really have made sense not to go around there since they had built a nice large canal just for that purpose. So I went through there.

I wasn’t quite alone either, I’ve had a bird with me [in a figurative sense that expression means ‘to have bats in the belfry’], however he was a meany… He shitted all over the solar panels [Audience: “Oh!”, laughing]. He must have eaten a big fish since that [pointing at the picture] is plenty of shit. Well, yeah…

… so real beautiful. And then I… Woah! [Laura clicked on the wrong picture] I arrived in Sint Maarten. Of course I started in the Caribb… Gib… Gibraltar… alone, but since the path lines crossed again in Sint Maarten, it [the circumnavigation] was finished there. That’s my arrival [showing picture]. My parents and my little sister came too, and my family. That was very nice. However, there were so many people … and the only thing I wanted was to sleep and eat.

… I also wrote my book. Well… If there are people here who would like to know more about my trip you can buy the book over here [pointing to the table with copies of her book]. And, well… that’s why I am here tonight now that the book has been translated to German and - why does this [the computer] not work? – and since I am in Germany to promote the book and do presentations, well you all know I had to come HERE, to the opposite, the other side, well… the other end of the world and… that’s actually… the End… Yes… that’s it already!”

[Big applause from the audience, Laura steps away from the speaker’s desk and takes place on the sofa again with Mr. Orthaus]

Spot: “Woof, woof!”

LD.: “Spotje…”

J.O: “Thanks to Laura Dekker… [inaudible]”

Spot: “WOOF!!! WOOF!!!”

L.D.: “[Spot is] Nervous, too.”

J.O.: “An unbelievable trip. And not even a bit of cock-and-bull stories, it’s all authentic. Congratulations. I have found a wonderful quote by Mark Twain that, I think, would fit you very well: "[…] Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream." Does that fit?

L.D.: “Yes, definitely!”

J.O.: “I think so, too. There are many people around who think like you, Mark Twain for example would be one. What I keep asking myself is: What’s your fascination with sailing?”

L.D.: “That’s a good question since when I’m ashore I’d like to go sailing and when I’m sailing I’d like to be ashore as soon as possible. Yes, that’s interesting. However, I find it very nice to be alone with nature and to travel somewhere only with the wind. Out there it is a completely different world; you are really alone at one with nature. That’s really fascinating. I can’t really put it into words, you have to experience it. You have to be… out there and experience it.”

J.O.: “I’m a sailor too, but I have to say that I only sail very small distances, not as a skipper but as crew, and each time I step aboard the boat and it casts off I leave all my worries behind me, I take nothing of those on the ship with me strangely enough.”

L.D.: “Except for the worries about the ship, of course…”

J.O.: “Those happen there. As they will come. Speaking of the ship – I’d like to know some details. What kind of ship was it?”

L.D.: “It is a Jeanneau, a French built ship, now 35 years old already, [she’s] 12 meters [long] and [she has] two masts as you have seen on the photo. So… yes.”

J.O.: “It’s called a ketch, right?”

L.D.: “A ketch, yes.”

J.O.: “I have read – I did not know that – that because there are two masts, one further to the bow and the other one far at the stern, the sailboat steers itself a little bit so to say, doesn’t it?”

L.D.: “Er… not quite…”

J.O.: “Not quite?”

L.D.: “No… sadly, it does not.”

J.O.: “Sadly not. OK, then my information was wrong. However, it was specially equipped for that long term trip. What parts of the ship did you add or change?”

L.D.: “The wind steering system of course, the solar panels… I did not change so much… er…”

Interjection from the audience: “The rudder blade!”

L.D.: “The rudder blade, that’s right, I extended it. Actually, my father helped me a little bit with that. We extended it because we had read somewhere that it [the version of the rudder blade that the boat was equipped with from the manufacturer] did not work well aboard other similar ships. But for the trip I merely added the radar system, the wind steering device, new sails of course, and a good engine and – very important – the solar panels.”

J.O.: “One thing struck me during your speech and it fascinated me: You made it sound so easy, took it all cooly. When difficulties like heavy storms occur – ‘30 knots, no 40 knots… I’m gonna sit this out!’ and that went on and on – I’ve never had the impression that you panicked at a single time.”

L.D.: “Er…” 

J.O.: “Or did you [panic]?”

L.D.: “No. Panic is very dangerous. When you panic you forget the whole world and that’s very dangerous aboard a boat. Earlier, my father made me practice not to panic and to think about what I should do in case something happens. I was asked before about fear and people said that I sounded so easy-cool. And I thought about that and… yes, actually it’s easy for me since I’m used to it because I grew up like that. Of course I’m scared of [various] things, however I guess you are afraid of the things you don’t know. I know sailing and I know Guppy pretty well, hence you are [I am] less afraid of that.”

J.O.: “You spent more time at sea than ashore, right?”

L.D.: “Right, I merely lived in a house for one year total.”

[Laughter from the audience]

J.O.: “How did you experience that?”

L.D.: “I was very young so I can’t really remember that time. But when [I am inside] a house now it feels somewhat like a prison. I like a ship very much …”

J.O.: “There you have unlimited freedom.”

L.D.: “Yes…”

J.O.: “But you also had to face great loneliness when you sailed solo. How did you handle that?”

L.D.: “As I said, it was a very nice change from being ashore with many people and be alone at sea again. I found that very nice, I never felt really lonely. Of course, I occasionally thought ‘What the hell am I doing here?!’ However, you can’t disembark and walk back – that’s impossible. Things have to go on and the next day it’s alright again.”

J.O.: “Is that your attitude in life? It has to go on, always think forward?”

L.D.: “Well… I actually would not think backwards! I don’t know how to say… [she laughs]”

[Laughter and applause from the audience]

J.O.: “[laughs] Well… you have to keep that attitude. You also write in your book ‘Life is a journey, not a destination’.

L.D.: “[in English] Yes!”

J.O.: “OK. Has there been anything that you missed at sea?”

L.D.: “In the beginning, yes. In the beginning I missed a warm shower, fresh food, but you get used to it. As I said [in the lecture] the people in the islands [small islands with only little comfort] are used to little comfort and living on a boat you also get used to it and you don’t miss a thing. Anyway, fresh food or a cold drink was something I missed at times.”

J.O.: “I think so, too. At first, it did not really sink into you that you had circumnavigated the world as the youngest human being ever. I can pretty much understand that since you were on a journey for about one year. I guess it took 500 days, right? Approximately.”

L.D.: “Yes… From Sint Maarten to Sint Maarten it was one year and one day. But from Gibraltar it was much longer… I don’t know, I did not count [the days].”

J.O.: “In fact you settled a new world record but it won’t be recognized. Why not?”

L.D.: “[I] Don’t know. You’ll have to ask them! Ha ha!”

[Laughter from the audience]  

J.O.: “Of course, I know their reasoning. They don’t want to encourage more and younger people to undertake such a dangerous adventure.”

L.D.: “Yes, yes maybe… I thing that… Well, my parents knew me very well and they knew that I could do it. However, I think there are many people who would tell their kids to do [something] because the parents themselves would like to do so. And that might become very dangerous, yes.”

J.O.: “When you look back now… One year and one day, or 500 days in total… Did that trip change you in anyway?”

L.D.: “No! It was nice because it was spontaneous and because it was like it was. In the beginning I did not know the boat really well and I had to learn some… but it was very good. If I was to sail again I might change a few things, but back then - no.”

J.O.: “What [would you do different]?”

L.D.: “Hm… good question. Well, I would not do it exactly the same again because I have already done it. But…”

[Laughter from the audience]
J.O.: “Always thinking ahead!” [Laughs]
L.D.: “I’d like to sail to colder regions, the…”

J.O.: “The Antarctica?”

L.D.: “Yes, Antarctica, or the North Pole. However, for that I would need a different kind of ship.”

J.O.: “I think so, too. You would have to take warm clothes on.”

L.D.: “Yes.”

J.O.: “I’d like to open the Q & A period now. If you have a question please raise your hand and I will come to you with the microphone. A question anyone? Just wait, the other people would like to understand you, too.”

Q.1: “I’d like to know how you coped with lack of sleep. Your sleep was always interrupted and you only could sleep for short times.”

L.D.: “You get used to that. When you are back ashore you also wake-up at every hours. Even though you could sleep all night in a stretch you wake-up anyways. Yes. I guess it’s easier for younger people.”

J.O.: “I walk the row from left to right. I keep the microphone.”

Q.2: “Did you ever had to deal with evil people? So far we’ve heard that all the people [you have met] were really nice or have you ever been afraid by people?”

L.D.: “Well, the biggest number of evil people I have met was in Holland…”

[Laughter and applause from the audience]

L.D.: [laughs] “Happily, there are more nice than evil people around, however, yes of course, yes [she met evil people on her trip].”

J.O.: “OK.”

Q.3: “In the photos we have often seen you with a guitar, a ukulele and in the movie even with a recorder [flute]. What role played the music for you and did you even compose your own songs?”

L.D.: “I’m trying but… well! I can play the guitar but playing the recorder did not work so well. I started with it since playing guitar aboard a ship is not easy; you get tossed around. However, I really like making music, yes.”

Q.3: “There is no song… There is no song about the journey?”

L.D.: “I’m working on it!”

[Laughter from the audience]

J.O.: “Is there another question over there? OK.”

Q.4: “Laura, what does ‘Home’ mean to you and what’s your definition of ‘Home’ or where would you say home is for you now?”

L.D.: “Guppy.”

[Laughter from the audience]

Q.4: “I mean [is it] Holland or New Zealand, Guppy…”

L.D.: “Most of the time it’s Guppy. Where Guppy is, is my home but now… I think it’s New Zealand, yes.”

Q.5: “My question is: At what wind force did you put on a life vest? Did you put one on?”

L.D.: “Well, a life vest is only of little use since when you fall over board then there is no one to sail back [to you]. You have a life vest [on], you’re adrift but the boat is gone…”

Q.5: “[inaudible]”

L.D.: “… so I wore a harness all the time, yes. I always wore the harness even if there was no wind at all since I was alone aboard the ship and if anything happened…”

Q.5: “I did not understand that. What… er… what…” [Laura used the English word ‘harness’ instead of the German term “Sicherheitsleine”]

L.D.: “A ‘Gurt’ [strap]… that’s the German term, yes?”

Q.5: “Oh yes.”

J.O.: “A strap.”

Q.5: “Ah, OK.”

L.D.: “Yes…”

Q.5: “And that was tied [somewhere?]…”

L.D.: “A strap with a rope tied to the ship, yes.”

Q.5: “Thank you.”

J.O.: “OK.”

Q.6: “You mentioned a ‘dropdown’ [knockdown]. That means the boat had capsized and layed on its sails?”

L.D.: “It means the mast was in the water.”

Q.6: “Well yeah, how do you get that upright again?!”

L.D.: “[You have to] Pull very strongly!” 

[Laughter from the audience]

L.D.: “No. Seaworthy boats have a keel which is very heavy. Usually the boat rights itself up again and it [always] did so far.”

Q.6: “And you felt relieved about that.”

L.D.: “Er…”

Q.6: “[inaudible]”

L.D.: “Yes. Well…”

Q.7: “In your lecture you mentioned the word ‘illness’ only once. How were you medically prepared and did you suffer from other health problems during your trip?”

L.D.: “Before the trip I did [follow a course] in first aid, specially for me since I would be alone to help myself [the first aid class considered the circumstances aboard the boat]. But happily… well, I’ve had [problems] with my foot and I’ve been ill one or two times but happily nothing serious. Indeed, I had prepared for that, yes.”

Q.8: “Do you have the necklace with ‘Guppy’ with you?”

L.D.: “Yes, you mean the necklace with ‘Guppy’? Yes, here it is.” [She shows it] “All the time!”

[Applause from the audience]

J.O.: “Is that your talisman?”

L.D.: “Hm, yeah... maybe. I don’t know. I never tried taking it off.”

[Laughing from the audience]

J.O.: “OK.”

Q.9: “From my own experience I can tell that the physical strength, experiencing your very own limits of physical strength can be very unpleasant. The usual solo circumnavigator is tall and strong. Did you ever reach your physical limits?”

L.D.: “Er… I don’t think [I experienced that] in the way you just described. I occasionally thought ‘What am I doing here?’ and ‘Why?’, however… it wasn’t really that bad.”

Q.9: “OK. My question was about if you once felt so exhausted that you thought something like ‘Well, I can’t go on’ or ‘I stop with that’.”

L.D.: “Of course that happens at sea. And as I said earlier, you can’t disembark… sure you can, but that wouldn’t be so good…“

[Laughter from the audience]

L.D.: ”… you simply have to go on and some hours later that [feeling] fades away. When you sit [aboard the boat] and watch the ocean and think about it and then… You have to… I really, really wanted to do it myself [the sailing tour], so I guess because of that I never had thoughts like ’Man, what am I doing’ or… I never wished to go back [home] again because it was such a dream and it made me think many times ‘Alright, you wanted to do it, so here you are, simply go ahead!’. Yes…”

J.O.: “Another question over there.”

Q.10: “There is this French regatta, the Vendée Globe, a non-stop around the world without stops. I once heard that it’s the toughest one of that kind of regatta. Would you like to participate in that?”

L.D.: “Well, I think… I have wanted to do so, the Volvo Ocean Race etc. and I started to do so a little bit, however, I don’t find it is so nice any longer nowadays since there are computers everywhere and electronics and so on. Nowadays those who have the most money for the Vendée Globe and the Volvo and also the America’s Cup win and I find that very unfortunate since it’s not really [has not very much to do with] sailing.”

[Applause from the audience]

J.O.: “More questions? OK.”

Q.11: “I have a question about school. At 14 you normally have to attend school...”

[Laughter from the audience]

Q.11: “… did you have to learn [for school] aboard to boat to satisfy the authorities?”

L.D.: “Yes. I followed World-school, a Distance Learning School aboard the boat. And that’s what I really did, however, I did not graduate since I would have had to go back to Holland and… I did not find that so important. In New Zealand I did exams to see [evaluate] my level [of education] and [it turned out that] it’s high enough so I could study if I’d like to do so. In fact it’s enough for me [another possible translation: I’m fed up with it now].

[Laughter and applause from the audience]

Q.12: “How many times did you encounter other ships at sea, I mean far away from shore. And in case you met someone did you [a German term for communicate] with each other? Was that possible at all?”

L.D.: “?” [She did not understand the meaning of that term]

Q.12: “Did you wave to each other, did you talk…”

L.D.: “Ah!”

Q.12: “… or shout anything?”

L.D.: “Yes, yes, yes. Of course, you can chat via VHF [radio], actually all ships are equipped with that. Er… I did not see too many yachts… I guess about three or four times. [But I’ve seen] Much more container ships but they, no, they don’t feel like chatting so much.

[Laughter from the audience]

L.D.: ”I told them that they had to give way, nevertheless, they don’t.”

[Laughter from the audience]

L.D.: “But yachts, yes. You chat with each other.”

Q.13: “I recently watched a movie about the pollution of the oceans with plastic garbage. Did you see that, too? Are the oceans really that dirty?”

L.D.: “Sadly, yes. When I recall the stories I heard from my parents’ from 20 years ago, yes. As I said, it’s the same with the sea animals and also plastic and stuff in the ocean, yes.”

Q.14: “I’d like to know some details about your meeting [or joint venture] with the Sea Shepherd people.”

L.D.: “Well, prior to the trip I joined Sea Shepherd, I also got a flag [from them] on my boat and I also collected money for them during my trip. I met them once in Holland and we kept in touch.”

Q.14: “WOW!” [Applauds]

J.O.: “[inaudible] about that organization?”

L.D.: “Eh?”

J.O.: “Could you tell us some more about that organization?”

L.D.: “They stand for the conservation of the oceans. They’re a little bit like Greenpeace but they do a bit more. They go out with ships and try to stop whalers mainly [from] Japan. They don’t just write something down and hold it up but they go out and act. Yes.”

J.O.: “I have read that you have had an unpleasant encounter with a whale.”

L.D.: “Yes, yes. It must have thought that Guppy was a fellow or so.”

[Laughter from the audience]

L.D.: “[The whale] Came very close and it scared me. They are bigger than Guppy.”

J.O.: “Oh yes.”

Q.15: “How do you get over the fear that there might be flotsam out there, containers and so on.

L.D.: “Yeah… the [inaudible]…”

Q.15: “At night I would have an uneasy feeling. I could not sleep then.”

L.D.: “In the beginning I had problems about that too, but you have to have faith that the ship keeps sailing by itself. Anyway, sometimes you HAVE to sleep. It can happen at anytime that [there might be] a whale, a container – they are indeed very dangerous. But even if you watch out continuously you could also miss them. There is always something.”

Q.16: “I’d like to ask… On a starry night in the middle of the ocean, it must be an incredibly starry sky?”

L.D.: “Yes, that’s right. I got pretty much used to that but since I’m ashore I realize how beautiful it was out there. So many stars and sometimes it’s almost illuminated. Yes.”

J.O.: “Are there more questions? Yes, please.”

Q.17: “When you were back ashore again, what was your first meal?”

[Laughter from the audience]

L.D.: ”Hamburger!”

[Laughter from the audience]

Q.17: “I know that myself after coming back from a long trip, I had to eat something natural when I was in Germany again…”

L.D.: [Nods]

Q.17: “… you had to abstain from so much. Thanks.”

L.D.: “A hamburger and a nice cold cola…”

[Laughter from the audience]

L.D.: “… with ice, yep.”

J.O.: “Any more questions? Yes, please.”

Q.18: “When someone does such a trip you normally need to have very much money, that’s what one would think, however, that didn’t seem to be the case with you?”

L.D.: “That’s what people think. On the other hand, ashore you have to pay for your house, for water, electric energy. Aboard the ship I get my electric power from the solar cells and water from rainwater. I anchored [off the shore], so I didn’t have to pay [for taking berth at] marinas. Hence I only had to repair and maintain the ship and buy food provisions for me, but I don’t eat that much, so that works [it’s not too expensive] and I think… you can do it many different ways, I know people who have the very best of the best of the best stuff [equipment] aboard, they take berth at marinas and go out for dinner. I am also convinced that if you eat the local food and don’t always buy what you are used to, it’s not that expensive. For me I think it’s cheaper than living ashore. But it depends on the way you do it. Yes.”

J.O.: “When I did a research about your trip I found that your principle of living is ‘Just to live’.”

L.D.: “Yes. That’s why we are here!”

J.O.: “You couldn’t say it more briefly. There’s another question.”

Q.19: “I’d like to ask you about your plans once you have Captain’s license. What are your plans for your career? Do you want to work [as captain]?”

L.D.: “My biggest [most important] plan is always not to have any plan…”

[Laughter and applause from the audience]

L.D.: “I actually haven’t too much plans for the future except for getting my captain’s license and to do boat deliveries. I don’t really know the German term, however, sailing ships for other people from one to the other end of the world and earning money doing that. But I don’t know how things will  work out. I have to see.”

J.O.: “But not aboard a sailing ship?”

L.D.: “Sure! Of course a sailing ship!”

J.O.: “Your deep passion for sailing struck me when you were not allowed to sail off. Back then you even did a suicide attempt.”

L.D.: “Er… not quite. The media exaggerated that story a bit...”

J.O.: “I see!”

L.D.: “… it was also because they [the authorities] made it very difficult in Holland. I don’t feel like going into further details because… it’s also very complicated. If I was to tell all about it I would have to talk for three more hours.”

J.O.: “OK. Now you are very famous, you’re in the limelight, something you didn’t have earlier. How do you deal with that?”

L.D.: “I learned from that a little bit. I did not want that [to become famous], I actually wanted to sail off and then everything happened as it happened, and I had to learn to deal with that. In the beginning it was not easy but now it is as it is. I found out that occasionally you have to say something to the media, otherwise, if you keep quiet, they simply write what they want. So you have to say something from time to time. And that’s what I do.”

J.O.: “And tonight you told us very much, it all was exciting and nice. A big thanks to Laura Dekker!”

[Applause from the audience]

L.D.: “Thank you.”

J.O.: “Your book is over there, ‘A girl, a dream - Solo around the world’, 19, 90 Euro, it’s absolutely worth reading. Thanks again to you and of course to Thomas Weber, who arranged everything [for the event] and who brought Laura Dekker to Windeck!”

[Applause from the audience]

J.O.: “And of course thanks to you for your interesting questions. Johnny Depp said something really, really great…”

L.D.: “Who?”

J.O.: “Yes.”

L.D.: “Who?!”

J.O.: “I tell you… Johnny Depp…”

L.D.: “Ah.”

J.O.: “… the actor…”

L.D.: ”Hm…”

J.O.: “’You can’t buy happiness with money’, he said, ‘but you can buy a yacht with which to sail into happiness’.

L.D.: “Hm!”

J.O.: “Thank you very much!”

[Applause from the audience]

-End of transcript-